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Leaving the EU has changed the way in which Wales collaborates on global infectious disease preparedness, prevention and response

Published: 20 September 2022

The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed infectious diseases to the top of government agendas around the world and has substantially influenced how the UK, and therefore Wales collaborates with international partners on infectious diseases, concludes a report from Public Health Wales.  

The study explores how the UK’s exit from the EU has changed its international relationships and processes for dealing with future infectious disease threats.  At the same time,  

Louisa Petchey, Senior Policy Specialist, said:  

“Leaving the EU has changed the way the UK and Wales work with countries around the world to tackle public health threats of global importance. The COVID-19 pandemic gave us a glimpse of what these new processes and partnerships look like in action but the situation is still evolving. The next infectious disease threat is where we will be able to fully understand the impact of Brexit.  

“In the meantime, we hope this report shines a light on how policy decisions that can seem distant from health – like the process of leaving the EU – can have consequences for health and well-being in Wales and beyond.” 

The key messages from the report are:  

  • International collaboration is important to three main areas of infectious disease preparedness, prevention and response: 
    1. Data and information sharing ensures outbreaks are identified quickly and that an effective, coordinated response can be developed and reviewed to reflect the changing scenario; 
    2. Trading of medicines and medical goods means that resources get from the nations that produce them to where they are needed, when they are needed; 
    3. Collaborating on prevention and preparedness, including research to better understand and treat infectious diseases and the impact of trade agreements on healthcare workforce expertise and regulatory standards.  
  • Brexit has necessarily altered the ways in which Wales/the UK work with the EU in these areas. It has also seen the UK develop new international partnerships. 
  • Although the timelines for Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic have overlapped, many post-Brexit arrangements were still in development.  It will be the next international public health emergency that fully tests the new systems in Wales/the UK.    
  • A healthy population is more resilient to infectious diseases. Brexit has been shown to have the potential to impact on the health and well-being of the Welsh population. Consideration should be given to these impacts of Brexit in the context of infectious disease prevention, preparedness and response.  

‘A briefing note: Has Brexit changed how Wales participates in global infectious disease prevention, preparedness and response?’ has been produced as a demonstration of the many ways that Brexit can influence health and well-being in Wales. It provides a valuable resource for those involved in infectious disease planning and response, and of wider interest to public health professionals and officials working on public health policy.